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A blood group or blood type is based on the presence or absence of two proteins (A, B) on the surface of red blood cells. Because two proteins are involved, there are four possible com binations or blood types (ABO groups): Type A - Only the A protein is present. Type B - Only the B protein is present. U.S. Blood-type Distribution Type AB - Both proteins are present. O+ = 38 percent of population Type O - Neither protein is present. A+ = 34 percent of population In addition to the A and B proteins, there is another protein B+ = 9 percent of population involved called the Rh factor (Rh for Rhesus m onkey, where it was first identified). T he Rh factor is either present (+) or O= 7 percent of population absent (-). Therefore, blood types are described as the type A= 6 percent of population and Rh factor (such as O+, A+, AB-). AB+ = 3 percent of population There are three form s of the gene (alleles) that control the B= 2 percent of population ABO blood group, which are designated as iA, iB, and i. You AB- = 1 percent of population have two alleles (one from your m other and one from your father), which are referred to as your genotype. The inheritance of the alleles is co-dom inant, m eaning that if the allele is present, it gets expressed. (See How Gene Pools W ork for m ore inform ation.) The following genotypes will yield these blood types: • iAiA or iAi - Both genotypes produce the A protein (type A). • iBiB or iBi - Both genotypes produce the B protein (type B). • iAiB - This genotype produces the A and B protein (type AB). • ii - This genotype produces no protein (type O). So, your blood type does not necessarily tell you exactly which alleles you have. For exam ple, a person with blood type A could have either two iA alleles or one iA allele and one i allele. It is possible for two parents with the sam e blood type (A or B) to have a child with type O blood. Both parents would have to have a m ixed genotype, such as one i allele together with either one iA or one iB allele. Blood types are determ ined by placing three drops of blood on a glass m icroscope slide. To one drop of blood, a drop of antibody solution to protein A (anti-A) is added. To the second drop, a drop of antibody solution to protein B is added. To the third drop, a drop of antibody solution to Rh factor (anti-Rh) is added. The blood drops and antibody drops are m ixed and exam ined for clum ps of red blood cells, and the blood type is determ ined. Clum ps m ean that the particular protein (A, B, Rh) is present. For exam ple, clum ps in anti-A and anti-Rh, but not anti-B, would indicate a person with type A+ blood. Blood types are im portant for giving blood from one person to another (transfusion). The blood types m ust be m atched. If not m atched properly, the recipient will form clum ps (clots) in response to the donor's blood. The clots will lead to heart attacks, em bolism s and strokes (transfusion reactions). Two blood types are special:

Type O- is called the UNIVERSAL DONOR because it can be given to anybody; it has no protein to cause clumps. Type AB+ is the UNIVERSAL RECEIVER because the recipient has all of the proteins and so will not form clumps.
Finally, the Rh factor is im portant for pregnant wom en. If an Rh+ m an and an Rh- wom an have a child, the child can be Rh+ or Rh-, depending upon the genotype of the father. If the baby is Rh+, this can cause problem s. W hile in the wom b, som e blood cells from the baby will cross the placenta into the m other's blood stream . The m other will m ake antibodies to the Rh+ cells. If the wom an becom es pregnant again and if the baby is Rh+, the m other's anti-Rh antibodies will cross into the baby's blood and destroy its red blood cells, which can kill the baby. If diagnosed early, it is possible to save a baby under these circum stances by replacing the baby's blood with transfusions that are free of the Rh antibodies. Also, if this situation is known, it is possible to treat a Rh- wom an with anti-Rh antibodies (RhoGam ) im m ediately after childbirth to inactivate the baby's Rh+ cells and prevent the m other from form ing anti-Rh antibodies (desensitize her).